Summer Overnight Camps Provide Magical Experiences for Kids and Adults with Physical, Developmental and Behavioral Disabilities
Now that Spring Break is over, many parents are contemplating camp opportunities for their kids. As the parent of a child with a disability, this wasn’t necessarily something I thought about early on. My daughter had medical needs and mobility challenges. Where would she go? Most camps in the park district flyers didn’t appear to be set up for her. Girl Scout Camps didn’t seem to know what to do with her. What would happen if her shunt malfunctioned or she got an infection? Who would help her go to the bathroom? I asked all these questions, and wasn’t sure that she would ever get to experience the magic of summer camp.
For parents of both children and adults with physical, developmental, or cognitive impairments, you know that finding a camp is not a slam dunk. Finding a camp that can support for your child’s needs, as well as provide them with an enriching experience can be a bit frustrating. However, I was fortunate to have been introduced to camps that can accommodate kids with all sorts of needs very early on, when my daughter was seven. Of course, I was nervous about the idea of my “fragile” child going away from me for seven days. However, once I saw her return from camp with lots of stories, acting a little more independent, with a slew of pen-pals, I realized that camp was one of the best gifts I could give to her. I also have to admit, it was a great break to revitalize myself, as well.
The good news is that there are many options out there around the country. Here are just a few options that will, hopefully, enlighten all of you to the wonderful opportunities that exist for all.
The National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD) located in Winter Park, CO welcomes campers of various ages and disabilities to a variety of camps. Their Summer Woods Adventure Camps are segregated into teen, adult, family, and developmental or physical disabilities. However, they all provide incredible opportunities to participate in horseback riding, river rafting, kayaking, hiking, mountain biking, camping, and resort activities. Everything is provided, except for a personal care attendant. Scholarships are available.
The Brain Injury Association of Colorado, in cooperation with Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center offers a summer full of Outdoor Adventure Camps that feature outdoor accessible ropes courses, hand cycling, white water rafting, fishing, hiking, rock-climbing, and canoeing. While these camps are intended for those with traumatic brain injuries, anyone with a disability is encouraged to apply.
Easter Seals of New Hampshire has partnered with the Boy Scouts to create Camp SnoMo, named because it is sponsored by the New Hampshire Snowmobile Association. This nationally recognized camp brings children, ages 11 – 21 together in a safe and accessible setting to participate alongside the Boy Scouts in a variety of activities, including archery, sports, hiking, camping, and high ropes courses. Medical personnel is on staff, and campers stay in platform tents during the five day adventure.
Camp Oakhurst is just 55 miles away from New York City, but it is a world all to its own. Youth and adult campers with physical and developmental disabilities enjoy a barrier free setting focused on achieving greater independence, making new friends, and enjoying the great outdoors. Campers can swim, cook, participate in sports, arts and crafts, or chorus. Fees are on a sliding scale, and scholarships are available.
Camp Sequoia, located just 40 miles outside of Philadelphia, provides kids, aged 8-17, who may have ADD/ADHD, Aspergers’, or high functioning Autism, the opportunity to enjoy the camping experience, yet work on developing their social skills. This innovative camp has integrated an award winning “Social Thinking” program to assist campers in advancing their social skills while participating in a fun and memorable experience.
Easter Seals Tennessee provides camping and respite services to both youth and adults with developmental and physical disabilities. There are a variety of overnight camping programs that provide opportunities for campers from ages 8 and up the chance to stretch their wings in a safe and accessible setting. Medical care is provided.
YMCA’s Camp Independence was founded by Dr. David McLone, a world-renowned neurosurgeon, and former head of Children’s Memorial Spina Bifida Clinic in an effort to assist children and young adults with Spina Bifida in actively participating in their own care. Nestled on 300 acres between Chicago and Milwaukee, not only does the camp have fun summer activities including boating, campfires, and swimming, but the facilities also include an accessible kitchen and laundry areas designed to help campers develop their self-care skills.
Camp Timber Pointe, an Easter Seal Camp in Central Illinois, just outside of Bloomington, is set in a lovely, wooded, yet accessible setting on a lake. Campers enjoy cabin camping while fishing, boating, participating in target sports, arts and crafts, and wide variety of other activities. There are six week long camps for children aged 7 and up, and adults with physical or developmental disabilities.
Camp for All, in Burton, TX, just outside of Houston was the dream for Dr.’s Bob Zeller and Paul Gerson, who teamed up with parent Larry Neuhaus to create a barrier free place for children of all abilities to experience the joys of camp. Fast forward from 1993 to 2012, when over 8,000 children from over 56 partnering organizations come every year to enjoy the variety of camps for kids with Sickle Cell, Cerebral Palsy, Spina Bifida, Multiple Sclerosis, Visual Challenges, Autism, and many other disabilities and illnesses. Scholarship is available.
The Paddy Rossbach Youth Camp, aligned with the Amputee Coalition of America provides kids, ages 10 – 17, with missing limbs and deformities to challenge themselves at Clarksville, Ohio’s Joy Outdoor Education Center. Campers fish, canoe, swim, and participate in a variety of sports and educational sessions in a safe and accessible environment. Amputee Coalition handles all travel arrangements to get to the camp.
There are many, many more options for campers of all abilities, and they are just a phone call or website click away. If you are looking for additional opportunities for your children, contact the National Center on Physical Activity for Disability, or reach out to your local Special Recreation Association or Easter Seals Center. Spaces are filling up now, so it’s important to get your application in as soon as possible.
As always, safe travels!